Voters strengthen open space protection

November 10, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Voters approved extra protections for land along Issaquah Creek, parts of Cougar and Squak mountains, and dozens of other natural areas throughout unincorporated King County. Known as the Open Space Amendment, the measure applies to more than 156,000 acres at 96 sites countywide.The properties can only be sold through a supermajority vote of the King County Council. The measure does not enable the County Council to buy more land or spend taxpayer money.

“These properties were selected for their high value in safeguarding the county’s many natural resources, habitat, recreation opportunities and rural economy,” County Executive Kurt Triplett said in a news release. “The overwhelming voter support shows just how much King County residents care about protecting these lands and the quality of life that they support. It is a tribute to the vision of former Executive Ron Sims, the King County Council, Cascade Land Conservancy and others.”

About 80 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the Open Space Amendment, unofficial returns from King County Elections show.

The amendment preserves the lands by precluding any changes in the use allowed when the county acquired the property. The council would also require a supermajority vote to add properties to the list.

The measure was initiated by the county executive, and attracted broad support from conservation groups. In addition to the County Council, the Issaquah Alps Trails Club and Issaquah Environmental Council endorsed the Open Space Amendment. Moreover, the Yes on the Open Space Amendment organization pushed hard for approval. No organized opposition to the amendment materialized.

The council voted 9-0 to send the measure to voters based on the recommendation of the King County Charter Review Commission, a group of citizens appointed to review and recommend changes to the charter every 10 years.

Ahead of the Nov. 3 vote, County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, who represents Issaquah, said the designated properties would be “extra-extra-extra protected” by the Open Space Amendment.

In addition to the Open Space Amendment, King County voters approved three other charter amendments — housekeeping measures to update the governing document.

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